The American Conservative:
- The REVOLVING DOOR of politics – a report finds that “Google has given money to…at least 22 conservative and libertarian organizations, the GTP analysis shows.
- Now, as a renewed animus against Big Tech takes hold of D.C. conservatives, another strategy is gaining traction among powerful but anxious tech companies—one focused not on money, but on manpower… hiring staffers with strong connections in the D.C. conservative establishment
SCROLL DOWN FOR A *PARTIAL* LIST OF THE BOUGHT-AND-PAID-FOR CONSERVATIVES
Section 230 has become a mainstay of our political news cycle, as Senator Josh Hawley and other Silicon Valley skeptics wage daily war on the controversial law which leaves Big Tech platforms immune to liability for content posted by third-parties on their sites. Hawley’s forceful condemnation of Big Tech’s special treatment by the government—despite the clear anti-conservative bias and progressive agenda of many of these companies—is a defining element of a particular, ascendant brand of conservatism.
But heated debates over Silicon Valley’s special protection precede the Missouri populist’s arrival on the Hill by years. One of the most memorable crusades against Section 230’s unintended consequences saw Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) leading the charge on the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act—a hard title to argue with—in 2017-18. The bill became law with overwhelming bipartisan support. Only two senators—unflinching libertarian Rand Paul (R-KY) and Section 230 coauthor Ron Wyden (D-OR)—voted against.
SESTA’s easy passage came despite the best efforts of Silicon Valley powerhouses like Google, and suggested that these companies’ old way of operating in D.C. was no longer viable. For a long time, tech giants could count on strong alliances with the Democratic establishment and the progressive movement, together with the pro-business Republican Party’s overall aversion to regulation, to ensure general freedom from Washington interference. But a strong Republican House through most of the Obama years—followed by Republican control of all three federal branches after the 2016 elections, and a reconsideration of free-market ideology within the GOP—meant that Silicon Valley needed friends in Washington whose names weren’t followed by (D-CA).
The Google Transparency Project released a landmark report in December of 2019 detailing the way Google went about making those new friends. It hinges, in large part, on a single person: six-year employee Rachel Whetstone was promoted to senior vice president for communications and public policy in May of 2011—not long after a wave of Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. Whetstone is the granddaughter of Antony Fisher, founder of the libertarian mega-donor Atlas Network, and daughter of its current chairwoman.
From the GTP report:
Shortly after Whetstone took on her new role, Google began making what would be annual donations to the group her grandfather founded. Google contributed between $25,000 and $99,999 to Atlas Network each year from 2012 to 2015. In 2016 and 2017, as scrutiny of the company intensified, Google upped its support to six figures, between $100,000 and $1 million, earning a spot in Atlas Network’s “Freedom Champions Circle.”
In 2018, Google was again giving less than $100,000 to Atlas Network. But by then, it was also directly funding many conservative groups within the network.
In all, the report found that “Google has given money to…at least 22 conservative and libertarian organizations, the GTP analysis shows. They include the American Conservative Union, American Legislative Exchange Council, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and the Mercatus Center.”
It is no coincidence that infamously progressive corporate behemoth Google was throwing wads of cash at conservative groups at just the time that a majority Republican Congress was weighing legislation that might chip away at Google’s bottom line. Even limited liability for third-party content could cost Google millions, and opportunistic appeals to market-minded Republicans on grounds of freedom and limited government might save substantial amounts of money in the long run.
Now, as a renewed animus against Big Tech takes hold of D.C. conservatives, another strategy is gaining traction among powerful but anxious tech companies—one focused not on money, but on manpower… hiring staffers with strong connections in the D.C. conservative establishment, in hopes that those connections will prove more beneficial than impersonal donations to right-of-center nonprofits.
A few examples (much more at the source article):
- Karan Bhatia is a vice president for government affairs and public policy at Google. He came to Google from GE, but before that he served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, among a number of other positions in the Bush administration.
- Mark Isakowitz has been at Google since October of 2019. Before that, he spent nearly five years as chief of staff to Sen. Rob Portman.
- Freddy Barnes spent six years as policy director for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), during which time McCarthy was majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Before that, he spent two years on McCarthy’s floor team while the congressman was majority whip. As of June, Freddy Barnes is employed in U.S. public policy at TikTok…
- Derrick Dockery worked for three years as business and intergovernmental coalitions director for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), following one year as communications and coalitions coordinator for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and two in communications for Rep. Ryan. As of June, Derrick Dockery is employed in U.S. government affairs at TikTok — rejoining Barnes.
- Donald J. Morrissey has spent over 9 years heading up U.S. government affairs for Huawei, another Chinese corporation suspected of unsavory ties to the government in Beijing. Before taking over lobbying for the foreign tech giant—whose CEO is a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army—Morrissey worked on the staff of multiple Republican congressmen,